'We have to coexist': Neighbors hope university, city police agreement will quiet student parties

'We have to coexist': Neighbors hope university, city police agreement will quiet student parties

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - When someone calls 911 about a noisy student party near the campus of UNC Wilmington, officers from the UNCW Police Department (UPD) and the Wilmington Police Department (WPD) will now respond.

The goal is to improve communication between students, WPD, UPD, concerned neighbors, and UNCW administration to reduce disruptive student parties.

The agreement between WPD Chief of Police Ralph Evangelous and UPD Chief David Donaldson lasts between Aug. 23 and Oct. 1 since that's when students are most likely going to hold disruptive parties, said Donaldson.

WPD officers will call in UPD officers when WPD responds to a neighborhood surrounding the UNCW campus, and finds that students are the source of noise, loud parties, disruptive conduct, and alcohol violations.

This is a more direct way for UNCW to know what's going on off campus, said Lieutenant Matt Ingram with the Wilmington Police Department, who spearheaded efforts to get this agreement in place.

Before the agreement, WPD would have to forward citations about students to the Dean's office because UPD only had jurisdiction on campus.

"This takes the middleman out of this," said Ingram.

WPD will remain the primary agency for off-campus issues, and UPD will not begin conducting off-campus patrols as a result of this agreement.

A similar agreement was made last fall between UPD and WPD, but was not regularly utilized because Ingram said he left town for three months for training.

"As UNCW is just growing by leaps and bounds, there are many students that are living off campus," said Ingram. "We're not anti-college kids, but when we're called, we have to deal with what's in front of us."

Donaldson said this agreement will hopefully reduce loud parties in neighborhoods where non-college students live.

"I think it's the natural evolution of a university as it becomes bigger and becomes more involved in the community," said Donaldson about the agreement. "It's also a natural evolution of police agencies to begin to work more closely together."

Generally, UNCW police have remained on campus while WPD handled issues off campus in the surrounding areas with few exceptions, said Donaldson.

"This really isn't about sending more police into a community," said Donaldson. "It's given the university the opportunity to reach out to students and have sometimes just educational conversations and sometimes more formal intervention."

Neighbors of college students in the College Acres community welcome this agreement between police forces.

Discussions for the partnership started about six months ago, said Lee West, president of the College Acres Good Neighbors Association.

"The neighborhood associations were complaining about the students, and when they call Wilmington PD, they were just giving them warnings," West said. "They'd write citations occasionally."

West hopes the presence of UNCW police officers will help students realize there are consequences if they do not behave like good neighbors.

"We wanted the campus police involved because that would be like double jeopardy," West said. "They'd get in more trouble with the university."

The neighborhood adjacent to the campus has traditionally been home to older adults, but in recent years, more homes have become rentals occupied by students.

"I've heard the developers say that we're in a transition," West said. "Well, we don't want to transition too fast. We want to stay like we are: older people, nice big lots, a quiet neighborhood."

Elvan and Bonnie Thorup, who have lived in a house on College Acres Drive since 1972, said loud student parties have increasingly been a disruption.

"It's a problem, but we try to take a positive attitude towards it," Elvan said. "These are students that are usually from good homes."

Problems from loud parties are especially bad at the beginning and end of the semester, said Elvan.

"There are some fraternity members involved, so they have a lot of friends, and the parties can get pretty large," said Elvan.

The couple decided to install four-inch foam blocks in the windows of their home to try to block out sound.

"You just can't sleep," said Elvan. "The houses are close enough together that even if they're talking loud, it keeps you up. We have resorted to putting 4-inch blocks of foam in the windows on the side of the house, and keeping lights on from discouraging people from wandering around."

Elvan and Bonnie said they enjoy living near campus and that students are not a problem most of the time.

"It's not like we dislike the students. They're nice. They're pleasant," said Elvan. "We hope (the police agreement) will give people the comfort of knowing that they will have peace at night, and some sleep, and avoid confrontations."

Donaldson said neighbors should continue to contact police about disruptive parties.

"Continue to call 911 if they have a concern," he said. "The university and the Wilmington Police Department and all the other resources within New Hanover County are going to continue to work to try and make this one of the best places to live in the world."

Copyright 2018 WECT. All rights reserved.